CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) Anthony Lawrence Jr.’s breakout game for Miami caught Notre Dame off guard.
It probably caught the Hurricanes a bit by surprise as well.
The freshman – who had a total of six points in the last six weeks and was a bit of an afterthought in the Hurricanes’ rotation – needed only six shot attempts to score a season-high 18 points off the bench, and No. 17 Miami beat Notre Dame 79-70 on Wednesday night for its ninth consecutive home win.
“Often times when you go to the bench you have a drop off,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “We don’t.”
Angel Rodriguez, Ja’Quan Newton and Sheldon McClellan had 12 points apiece for the Hurricanes (17-4, 6-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). Miami shot 63 percent in the first half and finished at 56 percent for the game.
Bonzie Colson scored 17 points for Notre Dame (15-7, 6-4). V.J. Beachem had 14 points and Zach Auguste had all 12 of his in the second half for the Fighting Irish.
“Their maturity, they’ve got men,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “And they’re playing like it.”
Lawrence’s previous best was 13 points at Nebraska on Dec. 1 and to say he was a non-factor in ACC games this season would be an understatement. In seven league-game appearances before Wednesday, Lawrence was 1 for 8 from the field for a total of four points in 39 minutes.
But in this one, he was 5 for 6 from the field, including 4 for 4 from 3-point range.
“He really hurt us,” Brey said. “It’s one of those things, you say maybe you can live with him getting some looks and you worry about the other guys. Then he jumps up and really hurts you. It’s great when you’re a young guy playing with men, the older guys.”
Meanwhile, Notre Dame simply never got going.
Foul trouble limited Auguste, the Irish’s leading rebounder, to 6 first-half minutes and the Hurricanes took full advantage. Auguste – who came in averaging 14 points and 10 rebounds, but was limited to no points and one board in the first 20 minutes on Wednesday – picked up his second and went to the bench for the rest of the half.
When he left, Miami’s lead was 18-17.
When he came back to start the second half, Miami’s lead was 45-33. The Hurricanes went on a 13-4 run to close the half, and eventually pushed the lead to 20.
“We just have to find a way to stop teams from making runs,” Beachem said. “Keep it close and keep it within striking distance. It starts defensively because I know we can score.”
Notre Dame: The Irish fell to 4-6 in games played at road or neutral sites this season. They were 15-4 in such games last season. … Something to watch going into Saturday’s game against No. 2 North Carolina – Notre Dame hasn’t lost two straight games since the end of the 2013-14 season, going 12-0 in the game immediately following a defeat.
Miami: The Hurricanes improved to 14-1 this season when reaching at least 70 points. … Tonye Jekiri had a game-high 12 rebounds and Kamari Murphy had 11 points. … Miami goes to Notre Dame on March 2.
Newton was booed by the home fans midway through the second half, with the Hurricanes leading 60-43, during a timeout no less.
The reason? In an appearance on the video screens over the court, Newton revealed that his favorite athlete is LeBron James – a predictably unpopular choice in Miami. Shortly after play resumed, Newton scored and cheers went his way again.
Ordinarily, fans aren’t allowed to go over to the ESPN personalities during a timeout and greet them. Ordinarily, those fans aren’t 7-foot, 450-pound men either. “The Big Show” – real name Paul Wight – of WWE fame, wearing a Hurricanes polo shirt, was escorted onto the court late in the game to greet ESPN broadcasters Dan Shulman, Dick Vitale and Jeff Van Gundy.
Notre Dame: Hosts No. 2 North Carolina on Saturday.
Miami: Visits Georgia Tech on Sunday.